A best-selling American-Israeli author said Monday there
is a campaign being waged to silence her, a day after she was found guilty by a
Jerusalem Court of plagiarism.
Naomi Ragen, a New York native and a
Jerusalem Post columnist accused the plaintiff, author Sarah Shapiro of “working
out of a desire to silence my criticism of the Haredi community’s treatment of
women, which I have done for years.”
“This is a sad day for Israeli
society and Israeli authors in particular, who will have to deal with the
language of abrasive lawsuits from people looking to suppress freedom of
expression and creativity in Israel.”
She said she and her lawyer are
still reading over the verdict and will decide whether to appeal when they are
Ragen said the NIS 1 million lawsuit “deals with similarities
in a few small pieces of sentences that are in my book and that of the
plaintiff. In regards to the verdict, I am in shock and pain from the distortion
of justice that was done.”
In the Jerusalem District Court’s 92- page
ruling, the judge describes what led to Shapiro’s lawsuit against Ragen, who she
said plagiarized from her first book Growing With My Children: A Jewish Mother’s
Diary for her best-selling novel Sotah.
The 1990 book is based on
Shapiro’s diary from 1986-1989, when she was a young, inexperienced haredi
mother exhausted by the burdens of motherhood.
Both Shapiro’s book and
Sotah describe the fears and anger of an ultra- Orthodox woman who has recently
given birth and hopes the illness and nausea she feels is the result of a virus,
and not a new pregnancy.
The court found that in Ragen’s book there was
“a resemblance in the subjects and motifs, resemblances in language and
terminology, similarity and resemblance in dialogue, at times word for word, and
Shapiro said, according to the court, that her
experiences, and by extension ultra-Orthodox life, were painted in a negative
light in Ragen’s book.
In 1990, Ragen and Shapiro were introduced by the
head of Targum Press, who gave Ragen a copy of her book.
According to the
court, the two then met at Ragen’s house in Jerusalem, where Ragen told Shapiro
she enjoyed the book and encouraged her to keep writing.
The court ruling
says that a few years later Shapiro began hearing rumors that Ragen had copied a
passage from her book and she bought Sotah at a secondhand book store, where she
said she was shocked to see her words appearing on the pages, including words
she had exchanged during a personal conversation with Ragen. The court said
Ragen denied all wrongdoing, which the plaintiff said also came as a
“In downtown Jerusalem, I found a copy of Sotah in a rack of
best-sellers right by the entrance and started leafing through the pages. In
just moments, to my shock, I started finding words that I recognized... With a
pounding heart I rushed home and immediately dialed Ms. Ragen’s number. I told
her what I had found and she said she didn’t know what I was talking about,” the
ruling quotes Shapiro as saying.
In an interview with the Post in 2007,
Ragen said “that woman has been hounding me for 13 years because two pages of my
book resembled two pages in hers.”
Sunday’s court ruling includes quotes
from a passage in Shapiro’s work where she seeks counseling with her rabbi, and
compares it to a passage in Sotah where the protagonist reaches out to her
In the passage, on page 343 of Shapiro’s work it reads “you
don’t understand Americans; we don’t make it our business to produce perfectly
behaved angels,” a nearly identical statement to one found on page 348 of Sotah
that read “you don’t understand Americans... American mothers are not in the
business of producing perfectly behaved little angels.” Shapiro was born in the
US and immigrated to Israel in 1976. She lives in Jerusalem where she makes her
living as a writer and editor of works marketed to the English-reading haredi
Ragen has written a series of best-selling books, including
The Sacrifice of Tamar
, The Saturday Wife
, and Sotah
, the book in question and
Ragen was previously the subject of a lawsuit by novelist
Michal Tal, who said Ragen plagiarized from her novel, The Lion and the Cross
for her best-selling book, The Ghost of Hannah Mendes.